Rising Energy Costs in Relation to Power Services for Data Centers


A ‘data center’ is generally defined as a center used to house computer systems and related components as well as telecommunication structures and storage systems. Due to the sensitive nature of this equipment data centers usually entail complex environmental regulation systems such as: air conditioning, humidity control and fire suppression which can be expensive to operate.

Contemporary Power Services for Data Centers

Contemporary power services for data centers are facing an increasing list of problems regarding space availability, technology, and most importantly energy availability and cost. According to Gartner research “Energy costs are the fastest-rising cost element in the data center portfolio”. Little however, is being done to measure and monitor energy use in these centers, with many center managers unaware of how much money electrical energy is in fact costing on a monthly basis.

IT Infrastructures

In 2006 the estimated electrical costs of IT infrastructures in the US alone was 4.5 billion dollars, double the amount that was consumed in 2000 (Beloglazov et al., 2010). Following this trend it can be estimated that data center operating costs in the US in 2011 could reach as high as 7.4 billion dollars. It is consequently, not surprising that computer equipment was one of the first electrical divisions to gain the ‘Energy star rating’, a ranking for equipment based on how energy efficient it is.

Green Grid

‘The Green Grid’ has reported that “The electrical energy costs over the life of a data center may exceed the costs of the electrical power system, or even the IT equipment itself”. This is however, not solely due to the electrical consumption of the individual components of the center; it lies more with the design of the system in general. This is something that a few large companies have been aware of for some time.

Some of these large conglomerates began sharing some tips for reducing data center energy consumption. These pieces of advice were released after research was undertaken that estimated that if all of the data centers in America were as energy efficient as the centers that these larger companies ran, the energy saved would power every home in the cities of Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

One of the main findings of the research regarding energy conservation was the fact that up to 70 percent of a data centres’ power is generally used to keep IT equipment properly cooled. This is a finding echoed by smaller companies and research facilities alike. Companies are consequently choosing to use more energy efficient cooling processes as opposed to older, less environmentally friendly methods.

Some of these newer, more effective methods of cooling data centers are:

  • Underfloor air-distribution systems
  • High efficiency chillers
  • High efficiency cooling towers
  • Closely coupled cooling and heat removal
  • Coordination of air conditioners

When these cooling techniques are used in conjunction with other modern power-saving techniques, a monetary saving of between 20-50 percent has been noted. Larger companies have reported savings of 500 kWh per server (or $30 per box) after putting some of these energy-saving measures into effect. It could consequently be proposed that the use of these energy efficient measures is both in the short and long term, beneficial for the company and the environment.